Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapter 6

Summary

Gulliver provides the reader with information regarding Lilliputian culture and the personal treatment that he receives from the Lilliputians. Regarding the Lilliputian system of laws, Gulliver says that treason is severely punished, which is not particularly surprising, but other laws are. These laws punish an unsuccessful accuser as severely as a traitor; fraud is most frequently punished with death; and any innocent man who is vindicated of a charge is rewarded. Interestingly, ingratitude is a capital offense. Moral, rather than clever men, are appointed to powerful positions, and atheists are barred from all government offices. Explaining the seeming contradiction between these good laws and the rope-dancing corruptions, Gulliver says that the latter were instituted by the present Emperor's grandfather.

The Lilliputians believe that parents marry out of sexual desire rather than love of children. Therefore they deny any filial obligation and establish public schools for children. Parents with children in school pay for each child's maintenance and are forced to maintain those that they breed. The schools for young nobles are spartan, and students are trained in honor, justice, courage, modesty, clemency, religion, and patriotism. The schools for tradesmen and ordinary gentlemen are like those of the nobles, but the duration of schooling is shorter. The Lilliputians educate women to be reasonable, agreeable, and literate. Workers and farmers have no schools.

Resuming his tale, Gulliver describes the visit of the Emperor and his family. They come to dine with Gulliver and bring Flimnap with them. The dinner proves to be a disaster because Flimnap, the royal treasurer, is appalled when he reckons the cost of feeding and housing Gulliver. What's more, Flimnap charges, his wife is attracted to Gulliver and has visited him secretly.

Analysis

Swift uses Gulliver's report of the Lilliputian laws and customs to illustrate a semi-Utopian society. He drew from such political theorists as Plato, in the Republic, and from More, in his Utopia, and he also used many of the suggestions of the political reformers and pamphleteers of his own day. His proposals were aimed at creating and enforcing moral virtue in the citizens.

Flimnap's charges against Gulliver parallel those made against Bishop Atterbury, a Jacobite, who was tried for treason in 1723. It is thought that the suspicions concerning Gulliver and Flimnap's wife refer to Walpole. Rumors about Walpole's first wife, Catherine Shorter, had accused her of misconduct, but Walpole displayed no concern. Flimnap is dishonored by his jealousy and Walpole by his complacency. If critics are correct about this parallel, Swift is unfair; he damns Walpole if he does, or if he doesn't, object. Also, of course, Swift is pointing out the absurdity of rash accusations made by politicians. Here, Gulliver is so much larger than the lady that she could not possibly have been unfaithful.

Glossary

concupiscence strong desire; lust.

his white staff domestic staff; housekeepers.

postillion a person who rides the left-hand horse of the leaders of a four-horse carriage.

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Gulliver’s visit to Lilliput allows Swift to satirize what sort of rulers?




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